The Saugatuck Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Master Plan committee is a state-funded initiative to suggest improvements to the public realm of Saugatuck. In the last Saugatuck TOD Committee meeting, it became apparent that this study may lead to significant changes to Saugatuck, and it is essential that we remain vocal to ensure Saugatuck remains livable for current and future residents. Such proposals range from reasonable improvements to sidewalks and pedestrian access to much more worrisome ideas that could lead to increased traffic, diminished pedestrian access, and denser development more akin to what you'd see at Fairfield metro or South Norwalk than is appropriate for Saugatuck.
David Sarno, who lives on Riverside, attended the last meeting and wrote up some notes on his impressions. You can see them below or posted here on the Saugatuck Updates blog, where you can also find the latest powerpoint presentation from the consultants on this project and the results of their community survey.
It's very important that Saugatuck residents and those with an interest in the neighborhood remain engaged with this process. If you can make it to the meeting on the 15th, please let me know. The typical meeting room is small and if we have enough people the town will host it in a bigger venue. It is likely that this is the meeting where public/private partnerships for denser development will be discussed.
Below is a summary of what I observed following the last TOD committee meeting held last month.
As you’ll read, there are a number of controversial recommendations from the Barton Partners consulting group hired to perform the study. The most controversial include introducing a parking garage at the train station, placing a roundabout on the intersection of Riverside, Saugatuck, and Treadwell avenues and the complete closure of Charles Street to vehicular traffic. Based on what I observed, it appears the committee isn’t properly directing Barton Partners and I am left with serious concerns that the money the State provided isn’t being used wisely or that the outcome will bring any meaningful improvements.
I am urging you to get engaged. There are two ways you can get involved to see for yourself:
- There is Saugatuck TOD Master Plan committee meeting on August 15th at 8:30am and our presence at these meetings is important. You will have an opportunity to ask questions and share your opinions.
- If you cannot attend the above meeting, get involved by reaching out to committee members via email or phone and let them know you are concerned, have questions, or would like a better opportunity to be engaged by requesting additional community forums be established during evening or weekend hours, when it is more convenient for people to attend. You’ll find a list of committee members below.
Observations from the July 18th Meeting
On July 18th, the Saugatuck TOD Master Plan Steering Committee met at town hall. The Barton Partners consulting group presented various suggested improvements for the public realm, but left the public/private partnership related proposals to be discussed at a future meeting. Fifteen suggested improvements were reviewed, with the first seven of the fifteen receiving the majority of the time available for review and discussion. To see all fifteen suggested improvements, click here.
Of the seven proposals that the committee focused on:
Three were quite controversial and one seemed outright foolish:
- Close Charles Street in the section that provides easier access to 95 Southbound and makes it easier for those on Saugatuck to turn toward the train station. Essentially, take away a congestion-reducing road and intentionally increase congestion in the hopes of discouraging use of Saugatuck as a cut through.
- Introduce a roundabout at the intersection of Riverside, Saugatuck, and Treadwell despite the fact that there once was a round about, and it was removed and replaced with traffic lights. Such a roundabout will certainly make that corner more dangerous for pedestrians, as we currently have lights at that corner to stop all traffic to enable pedestrians to cross safely. To do this would most likely require using eminent domain and taking land from land owners.
- Introducing a parking garage structure on Ferry Lane lot three and making Ferry lane one-way only. Not only would this slow parking and exiting the train station, but it would create an eye sore.
- The silliest proposal was to provide waterfront access on Ferry Lane at the underpass - it is probably the least desirable section of waterfront and would require that Ferry Lane be turned into a one-way street (which mentioned above would slow station traffic significantly).
Not everything proposed was controversial or silly. There were a few proposals that spoke to various configurations of Riverside Avenue that would widen streets, improve landscaping, and benefit bikers, drivers, and patrons (depending on the selected configuration). Honestly, these all seem like fairly obvious recommendations that wouldn’t require a consultancy to propose. Furthermore, there was a good suggestion to improve traffic flow to better enable drop-off at the train station. This was perhaps the only novel recommendation of the lot.
At the end of the meeting, Barton Partners asked the committee if they had the priorities in the correct order. Feedback was mixed. One committee member said he couldn’t weigh in on the priorities until he saw the entire proposal in totality (which would include the public/private partnership recommendations). Others felt that the grouping of the parking lot configurations should be consolidated and introduced as a single proposal. In the end, it seemed that no conclusions were made, no direction administered, and that these meetings will continue on their current path - Barton Partners throwing ideas against the wall to see what sticks and hoping to deliver something of value. It's up to the community to help provide more direction here--or a the very least to make clear the ideas the community favors and those it does not so that we don't wind up with proposals that are either bad for everyone or bad for everyone except those seeking to profit from denser development of the area.
- Co-chair Mary Young, Director of Planning & Zoning
- Co-chair Craig Schiavone, town planning experience
- Eileen Berenyi, town planning experience, Office in Saugatuck
- Andy Boas, Investment Manager, Office in Saugatuck
- Al DiGuido, Saugatuck merchant
- Marty Fox, Westport Transit Director
- Ed Gerber, representing the Westport Historical Society
- Ward French, Chair, Architectural Review Board, Saugatuck resident
- Peter Gold, Chair, RTM Transit Committee
- Robert “Buck” Iannacone, 5th Generation Saugatuck resident
- Samuel Levenson, Financial Communications Consultant, Saugatuck Area Resident
- Mike Mahoney, Commuter Rail Council Member, commuter
- Matthew Mandell, Executive Director, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce
- Cathy Walsh, Chair, Planning & Zoning Commission
- Ian Warburg, Preservationist
Contact information for the committee can be found here.